What Should I Do If My Child With Autism Hits Me?

Aggression in autistic children can present unique challenges for caregivers. It's important to gain a deeper understanding of this behavior in order to effectively address and manage it. This section will explore the challenges of aggression in autism and the causes and triggers behind aggressive behavior.

The Challenges of Aggression in Autism

Aggression can be a significant challenge for both autistic children and their caregivers. It can manifest in various forms, including hitting, biting, scratching, or throwing objects. This behavior can not only cause harm to the child but also create a stressful and sometimes unsafe environment for everyone involved.

Autistic children may exhibit aggression due to difficulties with communication, sensory processing, emotional regulation, or frustration in navigating social interactions. It's crucial to approach this behavior with empathy and understanding, recognizing that aggression is often a form of communication for the child.

Caregivers may experience a range of emotions including guilt, frustration, and helplessness when faced with aggression from their autistic child. Seeking support from professionals, such as therapists or support groups, can provide guidance and reassurance during challenging times.

Causes and Triggers of Aggressive Behavior

Understanding the causes and triggers of aggressive behavior in autistic children is essential for effective intervention. While the specific reasons can vary from child to child, some common factors may contribute to aggression in autism. These include:

  • Communication difficulties: Autistic children may struggle to express their needs, wants, or emotions verbally. When they experience challenges in communication, they may resort to aggression as a means of expressing their frustration or seeking attention.
  • Sensory issues: Sensory processing differences are common in autism. Certain sensory stimuli, such as loud noises, bright lights, or certain textures, may overwhelm an autistic child, leading to a heightened stress response and potential aggression.
  • Environmental factors: Changes in routine, transitions, or unfamiliar environments can be overwhelming for autistic children. These situations can trigger anxiety and frustration, potentially resulting in aggressive behavior.
  • Emotional regulation difficulties: Autistic children may encounter challenges in regulating their emotions, leading to meltdowns or aggressive outbursts. The inability to manage and express emotions effectively can contribute to aggressive behavior.

Identifying the specific triggers for aggression in an autistic child is crucial in developing strategies to prevent or redirect the behavior. Collaborating with professionals, such as therapists or behavior analysts, can help in identifying triggers and developing personalized intervention plans.

By gaining a deeper understanding of aggression in autistic children and recognizing the challenges they face, caregivers can better support and manage this behavior. Implementing strategies tailored to each child's individual needs and working closely with professionals can help create a safe and nurturing environment for both the child and the caregiver.

Strategies for Dealing with Aggression

Aggression in autistic children can present unique challenges for caregivers. However, by implementing effective strategies, caregivers can create a more peaceful and supportive environment for their children. In this section, we will explore three key strategies for dealing with aggression: maintaining calm and composure, establishing predictability and routine, and creating a safe and supportive environment.

Maintain Calm and Composure

When faced with aggression from an autistic child, it is essential for caregivers to remain calm and composed. Reacting with anger or frustration may escalate the situation further. By staying calm, caregivers can model appropriate behavior and help the child regulate their emotions.

Here are some techniques caregivers can employ to maintain their composure:

  • Take deep breaths and practice self-regulation techniques.
  • Remind yourself that the child's behavior is not personal and is a symptom of their condition.
  • Use positive self-talk to stay focused and grounded.
  • Seek emotional support from trusted friends, family members, or support groups.

Remember, maintaining calm and composure is crucial for creating a safe and nurturing environment for both the child and the caregiver.

Establish Predictability and Routine

Many autistic children thrive in structured and predictable environments. Establishing clear routines and consistent schedules can help reduce anxiety and aggression. By providing a predictable framework, caregivers can create a sense of security and stability for their child.

Consider the following strategies to establish predictability and routine:

  • Create visual schedules or use visual supports to outline daily activities.
  • Communicate any changes or transitions in advance, using visual cues if necessary.
  • Stick to a consistent daily routine as much as possible.
  • Provide warnings or countdowns before transitioning to a new activity.

By incorporating predictability and routine into the child's daily life, caregivers can help prevent or minimize aggressive outbursts.

Create a Safe and Supportive Environment

Creating a safe and supportive environment is essential for managing aggression in autistic children. By proactively addressing potential triggers and implementing appropriate modifications, caregivers can help reduce the likelihood of aggressive behaviors.

Consider the following strategies to create a safe and supportive environment:

  • Identify and remove potential triggers, such as loud noises or bright lights.
  • Designate a calm and quiet space where the child can retreat when feeling overwhelmed.
  • Use visual supports, such as social stories or visual cues, to teach appropriate behavior and expectations.
  • Provide sensory tools and outlets, such as fidget toys or sensory bins, to help the child regulate their emotions.

By creating an environment that caters to the child's specific needs and supports their emotional well-being, caregivers can foster a sense of security and reduce instances of aggression.

Remember, dealing with aggression in autistic children requires patience, understanding, and a tailored approach. It is important to consult with professionals and specialists who can provide guidance and support.

In the next section, we will explore strategies for improving communication and social skills in autistic children to further enhance their overall well-being.

Communication and Social Skills

Effective communication and social skills play a vital role in managing and reducing aggression in children with autism. By focusing on teaching alternative communication techniques and developing social skills and emotional regulation, caregivers can help their children express their needs and emotions in more appropriate ways.

Teaching Alternative Communication Techniques

One of the key strategies for addressing aggression in children with autism is to teach them alternative ways to communicate their wants, needs, and feelings. Since aggression often stems from frustration or the inability to express oneself, providing alternative communication methods can help reduce the likelihood of aggressive behaviors.

Here are some techniques that can be helpful:

  • Visual Supports: Visual aids, such as picture schedules, choice boards, and social stories, can assist in conveying information and expectations. These visual supports provide a structured and predictable environment, enabling children to understand and express themselves more effectively.
  • Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC): AAC systems, such as sign language, picture exchange communication systems (PECS), or speech-generating devices, can offer alternative ways for children to communicate their thoughts and needs. These systems can be tailored to each child's unique abilities and preferences.
  • Social Scripts: Social scripts provide step-by-step guidance on how to navigate social situations. By practicing and rehearsing these scripts, children can learn appropriate responses and behaviors, reducing their reliance on aggression to communicate their needs or frustrations.

Developing Social Skills and Emotional Regulation

Children with autism often struggle with social skills and emotional regulation, which can contribute to aggressive behaviors. By focusing on developing these areas, caregivers can help children learn appropriate ways to interact with others and manage their emotions.

Consider the following strategies:

  • Social Skills Training: Social skills training involves teaching children how to engage in effective communication, understand social cues, take turns, and develop empathy. Role-playing, modeling, and video-based instruction can be effective methods for teaching these skills.
  • Emotion Recognition and Regulation: Helping children identify and understand their emotions is crucial in managing aggressive behaviors. Techniques such as emotion charts, emotion thermometers, and mindfulness exercises can assist in recognizing and regulating emotions. Providing a safe and supportive environment where children feel comfortable expressing their feelings is also essential.
  • Positive Reinforcement: Using positive reinforcement techniques, such as praise, rewards, and token systems, can encourage and reinforce appropriate social behaviors. By acknowledging and rewarding positive interactions, children are more likely to repeat these behaviors instead of resorting to aggression.

By focusing on communication and social skills, caregivers can empower children with autism to express themselves effectively and engage with others in a more positive manner. Remember, consistency, patience, and understanding are key when implementing these strategies. Seeking guidance from professionals and collaborating with therapists and specialists can further enhance the effectiveness of these techniques.

Positive Reinforcement and Rewards

When dealing with aggression in children with autism, it's important to focus on positive reinforcement and rewards to encourage appropriate behavior. By implementing positive behavior support strategies and using reinforcement effectively, caregivers can help their child learn and exhibit more desirable behaviors.

Implementing Positive Behavior Support

Positive behavior support involves creating an environment that promotes positive behaviors while minimizing the occurrence of challenging behaviors. Here are some strategies to implement positive behavior support:

  • Identify and understand triggers: Recognize the specific situations or triggers that lead to aggressive behavior in your child. By understanding the triggers, you can proactively address them and prevent potential outbursts.
  • Set clear expectations: Establish clear and consistent expectations for behavior. Use visual supports, such as visual schedules or social stories, to help your child understand what is expected of them in different situations. This provides predictability and reduces anxiety, which can contribute to aggression.
  • Implement a reward system: Create a reward system that reinforces positive behaviors. This can involve using a token economy, where your child earns tokens or points for exhibiting appropriate behavior. These tokens can be exchanged for preferred activities, items, or privileges. By using a reward system, you can motivate your child to engage in desired behaviors.

Using Reinforcement Strategies Effectively

The effective use of reinforcement strategies can help reinforce positive behaviors and reduce aggression in children with autism. Here are some tips for using reinforcement effectively:

  • Immediate reinforcement: Provide immediate reinforcement when your child exhibits appropriate behavior. This helps your child connect the behavior with the reward, increasing the likelihood of repetition. Use verbal praise, high-fives, or preferred items as immediate reinforcement.
  • Consistency: Be consistent in providing reinforcement. Ensure that the same behaviors are consistently reinforced across different settings and by different caregivers. This consistency helps your child understand expectations and reinforces the desired behaviors consistently.
  • Individualize reinforcement: Tailor the reinforcement to suit your child's preferences and interests. What motivates one child may not be motivating for another. Understand your child's preferences and use them as reinforcers. It could be a special toy, a preferred activity, or access to a sensory break.

By implementing positive behavior support strategies and effectively using reinforcement, caregivers can help their child with autism develop appropriate behaviors and reduce aggression. Remember to collaborate with therapists and specialists to tailor interventions to your child's specific needs.

Seeking Professional Help

When dealing with aggression in autistic children, seeking professional help is often a crucial step in understanding and managing their behaviors. Collaborating with therapists and specialists who specialize in autism can provide valuable guidance and support. Additionally, exploring therapeutic interventions tailored to the specific needs of the child can be beneficial in addressing their aggressive behavior.

Collaboration with Therapists and Specialists

Working closely with therapists and specialists who have expertise in autism spectrum disorders can significantly enhance the understanding and management of aggression in autistic children. These professionals can conduct comprehensive assessments to identify the underlying causes of the aggressive behavior and develop targeted intervention plans.

Therapists and specialists may employ various evidence-based techniques and strategies to address aggression. These may include Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), occupational therapy, and speech therapy. Each of these approaches aims to promote positive behaviors, improve communication skills, enhance emotional regulation, and reduce aggression in autistic children.

Collaborating with therapists and specialists not only helps caregivers gain a deeper understanding of their child's aggression but also equips them with practical strategies to manage and redirect these behaviors effectively. Such collaboration can also provide ongoing support and guidance throughout the child's development.

Exploring Therapeutic Interventions

In addition to collaboration with professionals, exploring therapeutic interventions can be advantageous in addressing aggression in autistic children. These interventions are designed to target specific challenges and promote positive behavior changes.

One such intervention is social skills training, which focuses on teaching appropriate social behaviors, emotional regulation, and conflict resolution techniques. This type of training helps children with autism understand and navigate social interactions, reducing the likelihood of aggression in challenging situations.

Another effective therapeutic intervention is sensory integration therapy, which assists children in processing and responding to sensory stimuli more effectively. Sensory issues can often contribute to aggressive behavior in autistic children, and this therapy helps them develop coping strategies and promotes self-regulation.

It is important for caregivers to work closely with professionals to determine the most suitable therapeutic interventions for their child's unique needs. These interventions should be tailored to address the specific aggression triggers and challenges experienced by the child.

Remember, seeking professional help and exploring therapeutic interventions are vital steps in managing aggression in autistic children. Collaborating with therapists and specialists and implementing appropriate interventions can provide valuable support and guidance for both the child and their caregivers.

Self-Care for Caregivers

Caring for a child with autism can be both rewarding and challenging. As a caregiver, it's essential to prioritize self-care to maintain your well-being and effectively support your child. Here are two key aspects of self-care that can help you manage stress and build a support system.

Managing Stress and Burnout

Caring for a child with autism who exhibits aggressive behavior can be emotionally and physically draining. It's crucial to recognize the signs of stress and burnout in yourself and take proactive steps to manage them. Here are some strategies to consider:

  • Self-awareness: Take time to reflect on your own emotions and reactions. Recognize when you're feeling overwhelmed or fatigued and allow yourself to take breaks when needed.
  • Set boundaries: Establish clear boundaries and communicate them with other family members or caregivers. Delegate responsibilities and create a schedule that allows for personal time and self-care activities.
  • Practice stress management techniques: Incorporate stress reduction techniques into your daily routine, such as deep breathing exercises, meditation, yoga, or engaging in hobbies that bring you joy and relaxation.
  • Seek support: Don't hesitate to reach out for help or support from friends, family, or support groups. Sharing your experiences with others who can relate can be invaluable in managing stress and finding new coping strategies.
  • Take care of your physical health: Ensure you're getting enough sleep, eating a balanced diet, and engaging in regular physical activity. Physical well-being is closely tied to mental and emotional well-being.

Building a Support System

Building a strong support system is crucial for caregivers of children with autism. Having a network of understanding individuals can provide emotional support, guidance, and practical assistance. Consider the following:

  • Connect with other caregivers: Seek out support groups or online communities where you can connect with other caregivers who share similar experiences. These groups can offer a safe space to share challenges, seek advice, and gain insights from others who have been through similar situations.
  • Family and friends: Reach out to family members and friends who can provide support and understanding. Share your experiences, educate them about autism and aggression, and help them understand how they can support both you and your child.
  • Professional support: Collaborate with therapists, specialists, and educators who work with your child. They can provide valuable guidance, strategies, and resources to help manage aggression in your child. Seek their expertise and discuss any concerns or challenges you're facing.
  • Respite care: Look into respite care services that provide temporary relief for caregivers. This allows you to take a break and recharge while ensuring your child is well cared for by trained professionals.

Remember, taking care of yourself is essential not only for your well-being but also to be better equipped to support your child with autism. Prioritizing self-care and building a strong support system will help you navigate the challenges of aggression in autism more effectively.


Is hitting behavior common in children with autism?

Yes, hitting behavior is a common behavior among children with autism. It's important to remember that hitting is a communication method for children with autism, and it's not a sign of intentional harm.

How can I prevent my child from hitting me?

To prevent hitting behavior, you need to identify the trigger. Once you identify the trigger, you can take steps to prevent hitting and help your child deal with their emotions in a more positive way. You can also use positive reinforcement to reward good behavior.

What should I do if my child hits me in public?

If your child hits you in public, it's important to remain calm and remove yourself and your child from the situation if possible. Try to redirect your child's attention to a positive activity or object. You may also want to consider carrying a sensory kit or comfort items with you when going out in public.

When should I seek professional help for my child's hitting behavior?

If your child's hitting behavior is severe and persistent, it may be time to seek professional help. A behavior therapist can work with your child to develop positive social skills and teach them how to communicate their needs in a more appropriate way. A therapist can also teach you strategies to help you manage your child's behavior more effectively.


Dealing with hitting behavior in a child with autism can be challenging, but it's important to remain calm and understand that hitting is a form of communication for your child. By identifying the trigger, using positive reinforcement, and seeking professional help when necessary, you can help your child develop positive social skills and communicate their needs in a more appropriate way. Remember to be patient, loving, and understanding. With time and effort, you can help your child overcome their hitting behavior and thrive.